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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 02/21/2005
Vol. 2, #158

I've been away for a while, actually skipping three columns. In a way, you might say it was Superman's fault. That's because back during World War II, I became aware of the fact that a lot of readers used Superman as a substitute for some kind of messianic expectation, since, given the horrors of that war, the death camps, the brutal bombings, a true rescuer was needed. The same idea was put forth by Michael Chabon in his recent book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by suggesting, as a founding idea for the rise of Superman, the action of a Golem as a precipitating event for the birth of the superhero.

Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

In any case, I would often ask myself, speculatively, of course, what it would be like if a real messianic personality suddenly surfaced in the modern world. Such an expectation is at the core of most world religions and the idea of such a "Coming" intrigued me as a novelist. How could such a calling come upon him? Would he have had to accept it all at once or would he, like the Old Testament prophets, try to evade it? How would his human side with its weaknesses, its loves, its sexual drives, private preferences and personal biases function alongside his ultra-human purpose and larger vision for more than a brief period of time? In its intensity, would it not otherwise destroy its human bearer? And would such a one have chosen to provide what we have come to call salvation or grace beyond the gift of a respite from doomsday? Would any more than that not have been the lesser gift?

I also had to work out the rather complex character of Ronald Reagan, the President whose strange predilection to see the world as really a stage, and a cinematic one, at that, as well as a man who quite surprisingly developed a personal fondness for "the enemy" in the person of Mikhail Gorbachev, all strangely intertwined and fascinating bits of how non-logically the human soul operates. It was an ambitious book for which, as I said, Superman was the springboard. And it took me years to write.

But as every novelist with serious intentions knows, finding the right agent for a non-genre book is an appalling task in a publishing world where everything is now mostly required to fit into some genre. It took me three separate agents, a huge flood of letters and enquiries, a number of publishing almosts, and then, finally, I believe, I found the right agent. He recognized the work for what it was, but it had grown so large that it could hardly fit into today's tightly budgeted fiction allotments. I had to cut it by almost a hundred pages, which meant, tightly plotted as it was, an actual replotting and shifting around of the whole work to maintain its original integrity. I've been on that task for the past three weeks. This morning, I sent off the finished work. Now I can get back to my readers on this site.

Sorry to have been away so long. Anybody have any interesting questions?


<< 01/31/2005 | 02/21/2005 | 03/07/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

Recent Columns:
NEWESTVol. 2, #205 I have been away for months... (03/09/2008)
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02/04/2008Vol. 2, #202 Section 2
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06/18/2007Vol. 2, #199 Superman as more of a process than a fixed creation
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03/26/2007Vol. 2, #196 Consciousness visiting. My arcane subject for today.
12/25/2006Vol. 2, #195 Problems Crossing the Border
11/27/2006Vol. 2, #194 Sometime in the mid-1940s, Dan Miller, proprietor of the local general store in the rural village of Springs, Long Island, New York, acquired a painting from his new neighbor, the painter, Jackson Pollock. I knew them both in those days. But it took me many years to figure out how it might have happened.
10/23/2006Vol. 2, #193 In writing these stories, my imagination often ran ahead of me. I tried to consider the meaning of these outsized heroes,
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